Sunday, November 23, 2014

4 Ninja Stars for Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

Shang Yun-Xiang Style Xingyiquan by Li Wen-Bin

    Okay before I review this book two things to get off my chest.  First.  Although my interest in the internal Chinese martial arts is new, and I have been reading up on some of them, my experience with Xingyi consists of one class with Allen Carroll in Atlanta.  Second, for full disclosure purposes, I was given this book by the publisher, Blue Snake Books, for the purposes of reviewing it.  Phew, not that that's over, on to the review.

    Let me start off with this first impression of the book.  It is dense.  Even though there is 290 pages, each page seems to be filled to the brim with information.  After finishing it, I felt that I needed to read it again, just to get the second layer of information from it.  One of the things I particularly liked about this book was when it gave you the names it did so in the Chinese characters, the English lettering translation(what I would call romanji if this were Japanese), and then the English language translation. This was cool to me, as I can read a character or two (from studying Japanese) here and there, and it added to the depth that I was able to assimilate some of the information.


    The title of this book says a lot about what the content is.  This book covers one style Shang Yun-Xian, of the Chinese martial art Xingyiquan.  This does in no way distract from its value.  If fact the first part of the book is dedicated to telling you the differences between Shang style, and other styles of Xingyi.  The author, Mr. Li Wen-Bin, then went on to explain why these differences were in place, even siting the original art that Xingyi was derived from Xinyi.  Even though I'm not familiar enough with Xingyi, I appreciated the open discussion on his part.  Included in the first third of the book is a discussion on how and why Xingyi works, and why it is an internal art, as well as how it is linked to the ideas of traditional Chinese medicine.
  The second part of the book goes through the ideas of the key stance and what are called the five fists.  Again, the author explains, in terms of internal arts and traditional Chinese medicine, why Shang style teaches them in a different sequence than most Xingyi.  For those that don't know, there are five elements in Chinese ideology: Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood.  The reason for the difference has to do with the cycle of elements, how each if encouraged by a different element in the cycle, and how each element is linked to one of the five fists.  The book then, in very detailed description, goes through some of the Xingyi forms, in a way that can be easily interpreted from the combination of description and illustration.  Each form also includes a description of what the purpose of the form is, or rather, what should be learned/studied through that particular form.
    The third and last part of the book follows the pattern set in the second, but describes some of the weapons forms, including broadsword, jian sword, staff, and spear.  Again, with diligence, the forms could be done from just the description and illustration alone.


    There are many good points about this book.  Like I said earlier, this book is DENSE.  There is a lot of information and effort put into this book, and you can tell.  The tone doesn't convey the typical "why my style is better" mood, but rather, it reads more like an argumentative essay where the author says "here's what's different about my style, and here are my reasons why the differences are there."  There isn't any sense of condemnation or superiority, just a explanation of why, and I liked that .
    In the forms section, as I said, the pictures and description are very will done, which is hard to do.  Trying to show a system of movements in still photography is a skill all in itself, and this book does it well.  If you wanted to learn the form, you of course still need an instructor to critique you, but this book does a good job giving you the basic framework to build those critiques on.


    There is only one real complaint I have with this book, and it has more to do with me than the book.  This book is written for people who already have at least a decent background in Xingyi.  For example, several times it referred to "the classics of Xingyi" or the "songs of Xingyi," which I was not familiar with.  The author did explain somewhat what the information contained in them was, but i just didn't have that reference point in common with the author.


    Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5  Ninja Stars.  The book is well written, the illustrations and techniques are easy to follow, and I enjoyed the tone of the book.  I just think I wasn't part of the intended audience.  If I was a practitioner of Xingyi, or if I was starting out in Xingyi, this would be a great book.  I have a feeling that if I were to start studying Xingyi, then this would be a book I would read every couple of years, and gain new insights every time I read it.

1 comment:

  1. I love the ninja star rate system. Thanks for the information!